Woof vs. Meow: The Battle of the Book

In the world of real things, cats win—at least by the numbers. According to the Humane Society, the US has 86 million purrfect domestic kitties but only 78 million tail waggin‘ doggies. But in the world of fictional characters (books, cartoons, movies, etc.) the situation isn’t just reversed, it’s tipped over onto its adorable, swivel-eared head. Sure, you can find examples of beloved dog and cat characters aplenty, but keep trying to name them, and you’ll run out of cat characters long before you run out of the Fido’s of fictiondom, the Cujo’s of crime, or the Lassie’s of late night.

unnamed-2On Wikipedia’s pages about fictional animal characters, the cat and dog lists are broken down into literature, comics, film, and television. The cat list offers twenty-six, including such dew-clawed notables as Garfield, the Cheshire Cat, the Cat in the Hat, Puss in Boots, Sylvester the Cat, Tom & Jerry, The Aristocats, and the cats in Stuart Little and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. They are huggable, cantankerous, acrobatic, crafty, conceited and aloof, reflecting all of the complicated feelings we have about our feline companions.

 

unnamed-1But hold onto your leashes, folks, because the dog list has two hundred and eight-five, including such well-bred personalities as Snowy from Tintin, 101 Dalmations, Bolt, Old Yeller, Snoopy, Marmaduke, Toto, the Beverly Hills Chihuahua, Scooby Doo, Clifford the Big Red Dog, Martha from Martha Speaks, Hank the Cowdog, Underdog, Einstein, Timbuktu, and on and on and on and (Down, boy!) on!  They are loyal, courageous, and food obsessed, mirroring the simpler feelings we have toward dogs.

 

But if there are so many cat lovers on this planet (and as evidence I present to you: The Internet, which is actually made of cats), why aren’t cats at least equally reflected in our most beloved forms of entertainment?  I suspect there are two main reasons:

  1. WTFPortability. Dogs love cars and walks and travel. They are at their happiest when they are on an adventure with their humans. Cats not so much. If you are featuring a cat in your book or movie, for the most part it will need to take place inside a house or within a relatively small geographical area. That’s limiting for a storyteller.
  1. Expressiveness. While cats experience emotions just as intensely as dogs, they don’t express them as clearly. A cat’s emotional signs are subtle – an ear twitch, lowered eyelids, a tail snap, sitting down with their backside guilty-dogtoward you, or planting themselves in the center of whatever is currently occupying your attention (instead of them!).  Meanwhile, dogs broadcast their feelings on hi-def with every furry inch of their being—eyes, mouth, feet, tails, head tilts, sounds—they have a visual language of emotion so expressive that we humans are known to adopt their communication methods in order to better express our own mood states. Dogs are SO expressive it feels as if they are talking to us, a fact that probably explains the plethora of talking dog characters in books and movies.

Talking dogs is something I’m a bit of an expert on because, wKT front cover 2014 with gold awardhile I am technically (full disclosure) a cat person, my award winning humorous fiction series, Kibble Talk, features a talking dog. Readers also get to hear what a cat has to say, but the main focus is on Dinky, an enormous and cantankerous Great Dane.  That earned the book a 1-star review from an avid cat-lover, but on the bright side, fans tell me they will never be able to look at their dog quite the same way again.  That’s music to my swively ears.

Where do you fall on the cat–dog continuum?  Got any fave cats or dogs of literature that I’ve missed?

 

About Cynthia Port

Cynthia lives in the beautiful rolling hills of Southern Indiana with her husband, two daughters, and a head brimming with stories. Her first novel, Kibble Talk, was published toward the end of 2013. Book two in the Kibble Talk series, Dog Gone Dinky, was published in 2014, and Book 3, What Dat? is on its merry way. The Kibble Talk series is all about humor, but just underneath are heartfelt messages about acceptance and not taking the ones closest to us for granted. Young readers are hungry for lessons that will help guide them through the tough choices in their lives. So while my readers may come for the jokes, they stay for the experience of stepping into someone else’s shoes and facing up to a challenge.

11 thoughts on “Woof vs. Meow: The Battle of the Book

  1. What a great post!

    In all my fur-loving life, I have mostly favored cats–because I mostly lived in apartments, and they could handle that space better than dogs. I had some very animated little pals who broke the cattitude stereo-types. Recently, however, I acquired both a dog and a cat from the local animal shelter. They’re both about the same size, and suddenly I’m a dog convert. My cat is beautiful, but very aloof. Like a furry decoration you’re not allowed to touch. My dog, on the other hand, is my loyal companion. He comes with me **everywhere**. He absolutely demonstrates a myriad of emotions, the greatest of all being his love for momma. I definitely think he should show up in a book somewhere!

    Can he be friends with Dinky? He’s not even a yippy dog!

    1. Aw! Your puppy is so adorable – the ears! The ears! He and Dinky are already friends. They’ve been using wagmail and woofchat for some time now. And your cat sounds just like Fisher!

  2. Love this post, Cynthia! Well done. I wrote a book about cats and dogs (still in my agent’s hands) and loved being able to play with their expressions and the fact that the setting was in an animal shelter made it easier doing the cat characters. Animals can convey so much, with so little conversation! Cheers!

  3. Thanks Sharon – and thanks for sharing the post. Writing about dogs while being a cat person got me wondering. I would love to hear more about your book, congrats! Have you seen the movie Bolt? That is a fun portrayal of a dog and cat (and hamster) friendship.

    1. Don’t you just want to hug him and tell him it’s okay? We could all take some lessons from dogs on how to show the “feels.” Dinky puts it this way:

      “. . . so many of you humans are like that. You don’t ask the important things right out. You ask things sideways and then look for clues. Usually the answer you come to is wrong. Just ask any dog. We get to watch your pain, but we can’t do much about it except try to cheer you up with snuggles and tail wagging.”

  4. This is a fun post! I used to read dog stories by the score as a kid. I got away from it, not because I grew up, but because the dog always died. I really appreciated that you didn’t kill off Dinky! 🙂 I read cat stories, too. I can think of…three.

  5. What a fantastic post! It is such a fun read, and in a very creative way you make us think about our character’s emotions and how they are shown.
    I am definitely a dog person. They emote with every bark or action, and I have shed hours of tears over so many books because the poor dog died!
    What a great post this is! Well done!

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